Volunteering is demanding, rewarding for O'Hara woman

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

After two decades in corporate personnel, Michele Reuss is working on a much more personal level.

She is dedicating herself to promoting equity in higher education, supporting the local middle school and mentoring others' careers.

Michele has bitten off big jobs, but the energetic woman makes her activities work.

“I have to have fun. I have to have passions about what I do. I'm invested. It's who I am,” Michele said.

One such continuing passion for Michele is the Negro Educational Emergency Drive, or NEED, a nonprofit founded in 1963 that provides career counseling and scholarships so that Pittsburgh youths can reach their highest potential.

For Michele, offering education is offering equality.

“It's an equal opportunity to shine,” she said. “You can only be better with different types of people.

“You will be able to listen to different opinions and come up with a better solution.”

Her philosophical belief in diversity leads her to champion public education.

“Public school systems give you the opportunity to see diversity and do something with it,” she said.

The educational system was one of the reasons why Michele and her husband came to O'Hara a handful of years ago.

Their primary interest in the area is Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, where the Reuss family is very active.

They bought an older house on Field Club Road, tore it down and built a new home on the property.

About the same time, Michele decided to retire from her position at Giant Eagle headquarters, where she worked in personnel for 22 years.

The job provided lots of challenges.

Among Michele's favorite parts of the job was mentoring the 30 to 60 summer student employees every year.

As much as she misses her co-workers and her career, Michele knew it was time to move on.

“The stars lined up,” she said.

She became involved in the Fox Chapel Area School District, where her daughter, Maddie is a student.

When her daughter moved to Dorseyville Middle School, Michele followed.

This year, her daughter's second year there, she is the PTO's president.

“There is an opportunity for more involvement. A lot of parents have a lot of skills,” she said.

Michele not only spends time organizing support for the middle school in general, she has the time now to run those all-important car pools for her daughter.

She manages her day now so she can be at home when her daughter leaves and there when she gets back.

Her consulting work as a career advisor keeps her busy.

She also volunteers as a judge of elections for O'Hara and has volunteered with Leadership Pittsburgh.

Volunteering can be taxing, Michele said.

“It's like having a full-time job without the resources,” she joked.

Sharon Drake is a freelance writer with Trib Total Media.

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